Diablo 3’s Future Plot: Why is Diablo Free?

Diablo 3’s Future Plot: Why is Diablo Free?

Only lag can defeat me.
Only lag can defeat me.
Some interesting debate in our Diablo 3 community forum about what happened in the Reaper of Souls story and where the game lore will go next. It was spurred by some official story comments from Leonard Boyarsky. Let’s hear them and then speculate: Diablo 3’s Future Plot: Why is Diablo Free?

When diablo was released was it just Diablo or the seven evils?
Leonard Boyarsky: I think we can answer that. Yes if Diablo was truly released after the destruction of the black soul stone it would be diablo as the combination of the seven evils.

Brian Kindregan: Yes.. yes. It would be Diablo as the prime evil.

Leonard Boyarsky: Yeah that’s not the question I thought they were going to ask to clarify at the end. That’s the easy one haha. Let’s end any more talk about the seven evils all escaping. It did not happen. Diablo is the one free. There is no seven evil business. They’re gone.

I honestly didn’t remember what happened in the end of Reaper of Souls, so I went and looked up a video of the final battle and cinematic. There’s nothing about the plot in the cinematic, unless you want to take it as a PvP via game story preview. Tyrael yammers on about how powerful is the Nephalem and how amazing, but how he/she has a mortal heart and thus one day will be tempted by corruption and may resist, or may give in and destroy everything. The final cinematic begins at 2:08 of this compilation:

It’s before then, when you defeat Malty and talk to Tyrael, that the plot stuff referenced by the big LeBo occurs. I typed a quick transcript:

Tyrael: Where is the black soulstone?
Character: Malthael destroyed it and consumed Diablo’s soul.
Tyrael: Then Malthael’s death will have released Diablo. He is free.

Maybe it’s just me, but this makes no sense on two levels.

First of all, how was Diablo’s soul even available to Malty? As best I recall, all of the lesser evils were in the black Soulstone, but only because Leah (coached by Adria) used her magic to imprison them there. Diablo wasn’t in the black soulstone with the others, and when he took over Leah (creating Sheablo) D was in charge, with the others fueling his power through the black soulstone, much like an upgraded version of Diablo 2, where Diablo and Baal used their own formerly imprisoning soulstones to boost their power.

That transformation made Diablo powerful enough to romp into Heaven and take out the angels (and who didn’t secretly root for him, against those whiny, lecturing, echoy-voiced birdmen?) but he wasn’t strong enough to defeat the Nephalem and he was destroyed, falling from the Silver Spire and burning up, while only the Black Soulstone remained. But Diablo was not *in* the black soulstone, or at least I didn’t think so, since how could he have been? He was outside it, controlling it, and certainly Leah wasn’t there to zap him into it when he died.

Then in Reaper of Souls Malthael interrupted Tyrael’s brilliant “I learned nothing from the Tal Rasha episode” plan to hide the powerful soulstone in a tomb, and stole the Black Soulstone away. Malty basically became “The Prime Angel” then, channeling the power of the demons in the black soulstone to control all the souls of the dead, and planning to use the Black Soulstone to entrap Angels as well. But it wasn’t strong enough, and the Nephalem smacked him around, but not until after Malty had destroyed the Black Soulstone.

So… where does Diablo come in? I assumed his soul was banished back to the Hells when he died at the end of Act Four. As I understood it, the Prime Evils were basically immortal, and if their physical bodies were killed their essences just floated back to Hell and slowly reformed new bodies, during which time they were weak. Isn’t that the lesson of that Diablo 3 Wrath anime, where Diablo is happy to die so long as he sews discord between the Angels by doing so?

And why aren’t the other Prime and Lesser evils who were in the Black Soulstone freed as well? I thought they were only waiting for the Black Soulstone to be shattered so they could get back into action as well, like the 3 Prime Evils during their pre-D2 soulstone vacays.

Anyone’s got a better explanation, I’d be happy to hear it. Far as I can see, Bliz is just tweaking events as they wish in order to set up whatever they’ve got planned next. Which seems like maybe a Nephalem gone mad sort of story. What else could there be? We saw the Nephalem able to kill Diablo even when he was destroying all the Heavens in Prime Evil form, and then the Nephalem was able to defeat Malthael when he was fully-charged up as the Lord of the Dead. After that, what challenge could any kind of Angel or Demon pose? (Open an Angelic/Demonic Auction House where they can finally get some good gear?)

Related to this article
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  • Watch all the Diablo 3 Dev Lightning Talks

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    44 thoughts on “Diablo 3’s Future Plot: Why is Diablo Free?

    1. I think that Diablo's soul was in the black soulstone, at least that's what the Blizz writers intended. When you confront Zoltun Kulle (in the campaign mode), he is shocked to discover the souls of five lords of hell are already in the stone – the souls of Andariel, Duriel, Mephisto, Baal and Diablo that the hero(es) of Diablo II defeated. Adria (according to the Diablo 3 story) had marked/tagged those five souls so that they would be drawn into the black soulstone once ZK finished/activated it. I think Leah (or Leah's body, if you will), already had the "soul" of Diablo inside her and once Adria merged her with the black soulstone, Sheablo was fully awakened. It seems kind of weird to have Diablo's soul essentially in two places at the same time (both Leah's body _and_ the black soulstone) but that seems like what the writers are implying.

      Assuming all that, the only way I can make sense of what the writers are saying (that the Diablo released is the Prime Evil version) is that once Diablo merged with the black soulstone, he/she was able to merge all the souls together and bond it with his own soul. So when the black soulstone was released in Act IV, it only contained the supercharged Prime Evil Sheablo soul. Anyway, that's the best I can make out of it. I'm just happy we have Adventure mode to have fun with. =^-^=

      • "It seems kind of weird to have Diablo's soul essentially in two places at the same time (both Leah's body _and_ the black soulstone) but that seems like what the writers are implying."

        No, Leah was just the vessel for Diablo to possess. He went after Leoric because he was the king of a powerful nation, but there was probably also some susceptibility to his power. When Leoric went made, he went after Albrecht. Then he got The Wanderer who they retconned into being Aidan, Leoric's "other son" that was never mentioned up until that point. Aidan did the dirty with Adria while he was possessed by Diablo, thus carrying on the line from Leoric.

    2. No answer to that from me but my questoin is:
      Where did the power to kill Malthael come from anyway?

      Just before killing M the Nephalem's mentor bestows upon them that special spell (?), granting the power to be able to battle M at all.

      How did they get it?
      How could they just confer this power to "us", not even being alive (they are just ghosts, right?)? Okay so we fought a kazillion demones before we finally reached M, but still, there's a gap for me there somewhere.

      It's questions like these I'm "bothered" by.

      I love the game, even though it's patched and nerfed and whatnot more than I'd have ever expected. Which is good and/or bad.

      As far as the story goes, it's pretty sketchy. Turning Leah into Diablo was a nice twist but beyond that, D2 trumps in coherence.
      Imho, Blizzard needs to come up with something that puts a lid on it.

      Whichever way it will go, Diablo will return in Diablo 3 or World of Diablo ^^, regardless of how many of his minions were slain.

      • The souls of the dead are the source of Malthael's power. When the hero(es) show up at Pandemonium, they (or at least some of them) offer up their power to the hero(es), enabling them to fight Malthael.

        Reading between the lines, it looks like Malthael set up his own downfall, and whatever it was he did to take the power of the dead opened the door for them to grant power to others as well.

        • This, but it seemed like the story kind of dried up towards the end of RoS.

          All classes have their own spirit friend conversation when you first enter Panda Fortress lvl 2. DH talks to a younger sister, Monk talks a teacher, etc. And that conversation the ghost says the dead want to resist Malthael and they'll help the hero… but then that never really happens.

          I expected some scene during the Malty battle, or just before it, when suddenly he'd feel the millions of souls of the dead resisting him, or denying him the power he was pulling from them, and in that moment of weakness the hero could kill him. But it never happened.

          • The idea was that Malthael was essentially untouchable. You needed the dead's help in order to harm him at all. Granted they could have come up with something a bit more dramatic to represent that than adding a buff icon above the skill bar.

          • The souls give you the power when you kill the purple guardian in front of where they spawn on P2. Look closely and you will see some kind of light hit you and suddenly the surroundings look foggy. The special power icon even appears at the bottom of the screen.

    3. All seven evils', Diablo included, souls were eventually trapped in the black soulstone (thank you Adria). The seven evils were combined into the Prime Evil and the soulstone used to take possession of Leah's body, much as Diablo possessed the Dark Wanderer and Mephisto took Sankekur, etc. Despite being the composite of all evils, Diablo was the dominant personality, probably due to a combination of Adria's work and the fact its host was Diablo's "daughter" and was already somewhat under Diablo's influence/possession.

      When we kill the Prime Evil in D3, the Prime Evil's soul remains trapped in the Black Soulstone. The body disintegrating as it falls from the Silver Spire is just what's left of Leah. Remember the ending of D1? Diablo is killed, his body reverts to Albrecht and his soul stays in the stone, at least until Aiden plunges it into his head. Similar thing, but this time a corpse wasn't left behind.

      What wasn't clear until that interview, was whether or not the Primae Evil stayed Prime, or fractured back to it's original parts.

      The Soulstone did the whole corruption-from-afar thing Mephisto was so good at for a while, until Mephy decided he needed a power boost, and popped the Soulstone open and took in the contents like Popeye would a tin of spinach.
      Malty gets offed, there's no longer a soustone to contain the Prime Evil and thus we have a boss for the D3Y.

    4. Not having the other Prime Evils in the game is a bad ,and I repeat , BAD idea! This game is about epic boss fights and to eliminate the Prime evils as well as the lesser evils from the game is a poor idea… just like having act four in the boring High Heavens.

    5. If we have learned anything from D3 it is that any nerd that ever played D&D could put together a more consistent story than Blizzard.

      Other than the name of the franchise why does Diablo win out control of the other Evils? Isn't Baal and Mephisto his equal as brothers? I can see Diablo having control of the other lesser souls, but Baal and Mephisto alone should be able to break from Diablo's bondage, especially if they teamed up. Unless the other two are in accordance with Diablo I don't see how Diablo could remain the Prime Evil for very long even if forces of good didn't interfered. The Prime Evil would likely break just because I don't see Baal or Mephisto being content with being Diablo's slave for very long and would find a way to break free and be their own evil force.

      But there are only two logical outcomes and Blizzard is taking neither.

      When the Black Soulstone was destroyed it freed the souls in it, or destroyed those souls. Depending on which option they picked Diablo as the Prime Evil was either placed back in the BS after its defeat or was already free. That means Malthael, either had all the souls none of them. And if none of them were in there where did he get the power during the second part of the battle?

      In short if Diablo is free, they all are. Or Blizzard can just making some plot-holed story that will just be mocked like they seem fond of doing with D3. Seems that is the most entertaining part of the Diablo story, laughing at how bad it is.

      • You're ignoring the fact that Diablo (with a lot of help from Adria) set the whole thing up. His servant tagged them all for capture by the stone, his servant performed the ritual to create the Prime Evil and take Leah as the host, Leah was Diablo's daughter and in some way under his influence seemingly since birth, and Diablo himself was fully prepared for what was going to happen.

        With all that on his side, it's no surprise he became the dominant personality. And what's done is not always easily undone. You may regret that the nuts in your cookies are overwhelmed by the chocolate chips, but you can't un-bake them.

    6. The main part is simple – Diablo was in the soulstone, but since Leah was the host, Diablo got to be The One. This is why it was important that it be Leah that be there for all this scheming.

      What I don't get is why Malty destroyed the soulstone. He says it gives he does it so it gives him "extra power" but extra power to do what? Without the stone his entire plan falls through. That's the true plot hole in all this IMO.

      • He could still kill all humanity without the stone, it'd just take longer. He couldn't kill all humanity if he let the Nephalem kill him, whether the stone was still intact or not.

        • How would he kill all humanity without the stone? Without the soul-sucking stone, he'd need to kill them one by one. Not exactly practical.

          • My guess is that at that point, he was banking on that he'd have killed enough of humanity to not have such a hard time killing then one by one. Also, as Mage Slayer said, Malthael couldn't wipe out humanity if the Nephalem killed him first, so once it became apparent that the Nephalem was going to wreck him, he needed some kind of out. Cracking the soulstone was a bad plan, but just letting himself get killed was a worse one. Killing them one by one wouldn't be efficient, but dying and failing completely is a whole lot less efficient.

            I'd still agree that it was a plot hole, and one that probably shouldn't have happened. Probably a better way to do it, so that the Black Soulstone would still be destroyed but not in a plot-holey way, would be to have Malthael draw on the soulstone's power. Instead of breaking it, Malthael tries to control it, banking on that his power over the dead would give him some measure of control over the Prime Evil (who by most counts would count as some form of dead). Malthael succeeds, but only partially, and it noticeably damages the soulstone. When you kill Malthael, his power floods the soulstone in a magical backlash, and despite killing him and saving the world, the soulstone shatters and Diablo is once again loose.

          • He was doing a pretty good job of wiping out Westmarch (and apparently many other cities and towns) before he deployed the soulstone.

    7. "I honestly didn't remember what happened in the end of Reaper of Souls"

      ha ha
      that's just sad
      it says a lot about the game and the story

      the ending was so disappointing and so anti-climactic

    8. Anytime diablo dies, his soul is free to wonder whether its back into hell or into something else. In Diablo 2 the only reason diablo survived was because the guy in the prison talking to tal rasha or baal (I think, its been years since i've seen those cini's) never destroyed diablo's soul stone, if you watch the death animation in d2 when D dies, his soul goes into the stone in his forhead. His soul was thus transferred to it and not destroyed like cain/tyreal told him to do so. What I think happened, since another soul stone was present, he transfered his soul into the black soul stone as his physical body was being destroyed, hence the 20 second extra time to clobber his body after you've officially beaten him. Diablo I believe is the only evil that can actually be immortal and have soul transference when he deems it. I also believe that, when malty consumed the bsoulstone, he technically became diablo but had maltys body. Killing malty literally just released his soul again, except this time, no soul stone. I believe if they ever bring a diablo 4 into the light, it would go something like this. You get to chose a side. As a nephalim you have the power to do what ever you will. Join diablo and his crusade against the angels and all humans or inferior beings, or stay in the light with tyreal and fight along justice himself!

      • You are a bit off on this. Diablo's and Mephisto's soulstones were destroyed; that's actually stated in the D2 final cinematic. At least it's reported by Marius, who "heard it later" however that happened Heard it from who?


        The guy in the asylum is Marius, the dude who followed the Dark Wanderer along through the D2 cinematics. Marius had Baal's soulstone, which he took out of Tal RAsha's chest in the tomb in Act 2 and ran off with. Tyrael told him to venture into hell and destroy it on the hellforge, but he was afraid and ran away. Thus Baal was able to track him down later on and get the story out of him, before taking the soulstone and becoming powerful with it and heading off to Mount Arreat and the Worldstone, as seen in D2x.

        • well then, appreciate you clarifying that up for me, like i said i haven't played diablo 2 in years.

    9. This is mostly just guessing.

      The original soulstones such as in D1 and D2 required direct contact with the corpse of the evil to get the soul into the stone. In D3, the souls are 'tagged' to magnetize to the black soulstone. (Adria is somehow able to do this without being either near the evils themselves or the black soulstone itself.)

      It's basically implied at this point that the black soulstone sucks demon essence to it. Malthiel basically increases this power by sucking the essence even out of currently living things (humans/nephalem).

      Also, similar to how shoving the stone into your body eventually let Diablo corrupt and transform your body, but when you kill him he's still technically in the stone all along (happens in D2), the same thing basically happened at the end of D3 vanilla. As the body faded away only the stone was left. At this point it has the forged soul of the 'prime evil'.

      When Malthiel destroys the stone to absorb its power, it's basically a way of him shoving it into his body. However, instead of using the physical stone itself like mortals do, he basically releases Diablo's soul and then sucks it into himself before it can go off to do whatever the soul does when waiting 20 years to re-materialize or whatever. So when you kill Mal, it releases Diablo's soul again but this time with no stone (normal or black) to get sucked into.

      Chances are he'll reform back in the hells and do whatever he does from there, if that means crossing into Sanctuary or Pandemonium or whatever.

      Does it make sense now? =P

    10. The answer is simple:

      Blizzard is picking up the pieces Blizzard North left behind… and while working on the game, they realized they didn't actually know the finer details of the story… and just made shit up as they went. They also established the "if it doesn't fit into what we want to do next, we'll just retcon it" complex. As such, they didn't think carefully about the story they were weaving with D3 and ROS. They just wanted the money that a long awaited Diablo sequel would generate.

      I'm sorry, was that too cynical?


      • Can't really argue with that, the quality of the story line gets worse with each release of Diablo 🙁

        The gameplay is fantastic, but the story is a big let down. What a waste of that nicely done A5, I might replay it in Story mode on a high Torment level (HC ofcourse) to re-live the thrill of it.

      • Speaking of cynicism, Blizzard probably couldn't afford to hire more 3-D animators to create the Mephisto, Baal, Duriel, and Andariel characters.

      • Except Blizzard Irvine was heavily involved in making the story of D1 and D2, particularly the cinematics.

      • Unfortunately no, it wasn't too cynical. The real question should be, was it cynical enough?

    11. I think the next xpac is going to be about Lillith and Inarius influencing the Nephalem into picking a side. There was way too much lore dropping in the last section about Lillith and Inarius’s union for them not to be in it. It might be a turn to the dark side (follow Lillith) followed by a change of heart type of plot.

      There’s also an added line in the xpac in Act 4 where I think it’s Auriel and the Nephalem talk about the Nephalem becoming so powerful that they could very well vote to decide the fate of the Angels rather than the Angels deciding the fate of man, which they did at one point where Tyrael spared them. Given that that was added in the expansion, I do wonder whether that hints at what’s to come.

      • I don't know why they would want you to pick the side? Haven't they left Their sides? More likely they would influence Nephalem to kill all Angels and Demons.

      • I'd hope that as more of a D4 story. Removed by centuries from the current events. Pre-d3 Bliz said that D3 would wrap up this trilogy, which I took to mean the current story, as developed through D1 into D2 and then D3. Whether they'll do that is unknown, and they like to retcon, etc.

        But I'm personally expecting D4 to be set in a very different time frame, possibly back during the Sin War or way in the future. I'd actually like a return to earlier days; they've built the Nephalem up to be so powerful now, able to defeat the mostest of angels or demons, that it's starting to feel like no story/plot can provide adequate challenge. I think a fantasy world where your hero is strong, but no where near the strongest thing around, is more interesting. Where you can't just charge into any situation and brute force it, and you know there are monsters out there that could squish you like jelly. Lovecraftian, sorta.

        • Time for an outside alien menace to come in. Zerg invasion forces angel, demons and humans to but differences aside. Maybe throw in some orcs….

    12. i think many of the explanations here are pretty good, the problem is, none of them are canonically stated in the game itself, and thats where all the complains comes from
      if something, once could even say diablo was born in whimsyshire
      at least that how i see it

    13. In vanilla, when Diablo had the soulstone all the lesser evil's power entered Diablo and gave him his uber power.

      When he was destroyed his soul containing the lesser evils was absorbed into the falling soulstone. So he's in the soulstone, and in him are all the lesser evils.

      That's how I make sense of it.

    14. That skip cinematics button… 🙂

      1) You find the Black soulstone – souls are there. Kulle says so;

      2) Adria and Kulle trick you into making the hard work of putting the remaining evils into soulstone (Belial and Azmodan);

      3) Adria charges Leah and she becomes Sheablo;

      4) Sheablo dies and falls on the… floor. Diablo soul lingers on the black soulstone (RoS opening cinematic). He didn't went anywhere, really. The cinematic shows him falling as a soulstone into a lower floor of high heavens.

      Watch the cinematic unfolding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cb7QJwQ58T0

      (Tyrael should check the floor before saying brave stuff on the D3 ending.);

      5) Malthael breaks everything.

    15. Trying to make sense of D3's „story“ is probably a luckless effort, as apparently not even the people in charge of writing it could be bothered too much.

      I imagine them throwing together some vague direction which the story was planned to take at lunch, later agreeing on that officially due to lack of better inspiration and finally the details being left to be added during production. With the game running out of developement time/budget in the end (not even a proper ending cinematic for the expansion …), they then scraped up what they had, half finished or not, and threw into the stores – sans the details that might somehow made sense of the story (amongst many other things).

      The discussion reminds me a bit of the endless attempts of creating an official Legend of Zelda timeline, depicting which game took place after and before which other entry into the series – all while the developers apparently never considered it to be anything else but the very same story all over again in many different parallel variations.

    16. Wait what? About Malthael imprisoning other angels, where that bs come from? He never wanted to imprison angels. He wanted to destroy all evil, including both demons and humans as humanity is the descendant of demons and angels, so according to that we have evil within us. But the angels themselves are the good guys (in Malthael’s eyes), they are who Malthael wants to win the war FOR.

      • Some of the dialogues during the game talk about how the black soulstone could be used to imprison angels as well as demons. And Malthael attacks Heaven in part of act 5, though that just felt like a late-added excuse for a quick scene in Act 5 and then a reason for Imperius to help your character out a bit. (After he was initially going to be a bad guy in RoS, but they changed that plot and as a result he's hardly seen at all.)

    17. Main part of the D essence was left in the soulstone, but curropted Leah enouigh to transfer her, why she ended up as a Sheablo, and not a fully Diablo.

    18. You ask a good question – if it requires magical marking or tagging of a demon's soul to cause it to enter the black soulstone instead of going back to hell, Diablo certainly wouldn't make it so that her own soul would be tagged in such a manner.

      Why it makes sense to me that the Prime Evil's soul would end up in the soulstone is that soulstones seem to operate in a very sticky two-way street kind of way. Soul essence trapped in a soulstone affects the people and area surrounding it, seemingly by force of will. So for Diablo to access the powers of the other Evils combined, S/he'd have to establish a connection to that soulstone that would interweave all of the soul essences into one. So it feels pretty natural that a side effect of that combining into the Prime Evil makes it so that Diablo's soul can't go separately wander off back to hell, but rather picks up the characteristics of the others in terms of being tied to the Black Soulstone.

    19. I'm late and it's already been answered, but yeah Diablo was in the BSS already.

      After Diablo 1 Adria found out how to use Zoltun Kulle's magic to mark demon souls.

      In the years between D2 and D3 Adria searched the world for the places that the Prime Evils (Diablo, Baal and Mephisto) and a few Lesser Evils (Andariel and Duriel) had died. She used the spells she had learned to mark these places as they had a 'residue' of the souls of the great Evils that had died there.

      When Kulle finished completing the BSS in D3 the spells Adria had laid were triggered and pulled all the souls into the Stone.

      • I actually really like the idea they had for D3's story overall. There's some really cool stuff in there. It's just so poorly told that it's potential is almost entirely wasted. Pity.

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